Seventh-day Adventists with good intentions, including myself, have sometimes wrongly judged the spiritual experience of people outside our denomination.
We've reasoned that they are counterfeit Christians because they don't keep the seventh-day Sabbath, because they believe their loved ones are in heaven instead of sleeping in Jesus, or because they don't believe that Ellen White has the gift of prophecy,.
Some Adventists have even judged the genuineness of the spiritual experience of those who worship with them on Sabbath mornings. They have reasoned that Adventists who eat certain foods, dress a certain way, or prefer certain styles of music, must be corrected in order to measure up to the law and the testimony.
It has become commonplace in this world to magnify the traits that make people different from each other. This often results in one of two outcomes:
Focusing on what makes us different from others drives us farther away from those we're called to love.
This was the backdrop for Jesus story of the Good Samaritan.
The ancestors of the Samaritans had once been, with the Jews, God's chosen people Israel. When Jesus told this story, Samaritans and Jews held each other in contempt.
The Samaritans were an ethnic and religious group that lived in ancient Palestine, and their religion and customs were a blend of Judaism and paganism. They were descendants of the Israelites who remained in the region after the Babylonian exile and the Assyrian conquests. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon and wouldn't allow the Samaritans to join them in rebuilding the temple, the Samaritans established their own religious center on Mount Gerizim, near the city of Shechem.
The relationship between the Jews and Samaritans was often tense. The two groups had a long history of conflict and rivalry. The Jews considered the Samaritans to be heretics and refused to recognize their religious practices. The Samaritans regarded themselves as the true keepers of the Torah and rejected the authority of the Jewish priesthood in Jerusalem.
The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of a man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37).
As the story goes, a Jewish priest and a Levite (God's chosen people) passed by the injured man without helping him.
However, a Samaritan, despised by the Jews for his ethnic heritage and tainted theology, stopped and showed compassion for the man. He tended to his wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.
Too often, it's those who claim to have the right theology that fail to do the righteous thing. This was the situation Jesus found himself in with the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees. They claimed to be the genuine article. But they were the counterfeits. They were right, but not righteous.
Jesus promised a special blessing for peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Jesus wasn't offering a compliment to those who quiet noisy children during church, or who get a neighbor to turn down their loud music. The blessing Jesus promised is for those who bring healing to broken relationships by loving their neighbors as they love themselves.
This is the legacy of the Good Samaritan. He was blessed--a peacemaker. The Good Samaritan didn't have as much of the light of truth as his Jewish neighbors, but his light shined brighter when he lived up to the light he had. The little light he had produced in him a Christlike character that made his world a better place for the people he encountered.
Before we judge someone's spiritual experience, we'd do well to consider that, like Good Sam, they may be living up to the light they have. And before we rush to enlighten them we'd do well to consider how well we're living by the light we have.
"What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within—when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance." Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 384